Talbots ( TLB) posted second-quarter earnings results that topped last year's by 18% and beat First Call/Thomson Financial's EPS estimate by a penny. The Hingham, Mass.-based company earned $20 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with $17.8 million, or 28 cents a share, a year ago. The First Call consensus had predicted EPS of 32 cents. The improvement was due in part to better-than-expected late summer and fall merchandise sales, according to Talbots CEO Arnold B. Zetcher. Marked down merchandise also sold better than the company had hoped, he said. Total sales, however, decreased by 4% to $370.4 million from $384.3 million during the same period last year. During the quarter, the clothing retailer opened 18 new stores, which brought its total to 846. Forty more new stores are planned to open by year's end, six more than the company had originally planned. Zetcher also said the company will introduce a men's clothing line this October. Shares of Talbots were unchanged Tuesday at $32.71 on the New York Stock Exchange.